REVIEW: Monument / O Captain / Nai Harvest
by Chad Jewett
“3 Musketeers” would be the song of the summer if it didn’t seem so intent on being the song of the fall. The song wafts in like the memory of warmth, guitars blossoming at the edges of a thudding, minimalist beat. The melody, when it arrives, is buoyant and naturalistic: “I’ll find a way.” Eventually the song works itself up into a quicker, angling forward motion before cooling back down into a reedy strum, haloed by echoed noise and phantom string harmonies, on which the song will fade out. The whole thing feels gently bittersweet, content to, at times, ripple and shimmer like so much of the modern emo generation of which Monument were a cornerstone (along with fellow mid-Atlantic greats Algernon Cadwallader and Snowing), yet book-ended by soft-focus spans of sepia quiet. The cover of Monument’s final album, Bros Canoeing (a canny play on the title of their first album, Goes Canoeing) shows two young men dissolving into earth-toned rainbows, surrounded by a sylvan burst of autumn colors. It’s not a bad way of understanding the mix of effervescence and sadness that we find on “3 Musketeers.”
“Summer Party Jam”
If “3 Musketeers” is a would-be solstice song that just ends up bit too resplendent of falling leaves, then O Captain, an emo quartet from Yorkshire, England, dispense with any pretense by naming their newest single “Summer Party Jam.” The song certainly has melody on its side, and an athletic two-minute running time, and a nifty closing hook (“Turn out the bright lights!”). Beginning with a deceptive bit of lo-fi strums and quickly bursting into the kind of thick, sparkling collegiate melodic punk that was last hitting an ideal vintage on Stay What You Are and Bleed American, “Summer Party Jam” is a remarkably confident dispatch of honed, economic pop-emo.
When we last left Nai Harvest, they were seasoning a particularly wry brand of emo with post-grunge melodicism (the band covered a Teenage Fanclub song, which is more or less perfect). Now we have “Buttercups”, the lead single from a split with Playlounge. The song is languorous, and largely content to bob along long-form spans of fuzzed strums and echoing, partly sunny riffs. That is, until around the half-way point. The song gains purchase on an excellent chorus, where all those spare notes are shaped into a nimble hook: “I don’t wanna feel like a low-life / Stab me in the chest with your knife / Fill me up again with buttercups.” It’s the remarkable sound of a band figuring it out halfway through – it’s punk serendipity. Where the current indie-rock vogue for 90s nostalgia has largely been nebulous and slow to yield actual songs, instead seeming content to make gestures, Nai Harvest have figured out why we keep going back to those gold sounds by making some of their own.